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In a first for CCARM, a 2021 paper co-authored by Drs. Heather Blewett and Miyoung Suh is being referenced by Celiac Canada in its efforts to lobby the federal government to help Canadians living with Celiac disease manage the high cost of gluten-free food.

Cost, Nutritional Content and Number of Gluten-Free Staple Foods Available in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada found the median cost of 819 gluten-free products was $1.50/100g, compared to $0.65/100g for gluten-containing products. Gluten-free products in Manitoba were therefore more than 130% more expensive than gluten-containing products.

The paper was one of several food economic studies cited by Celiac Canada in an open letter to Parliament, urging political leaders to help ease the financial burden on Canadians who need gluten-free food simply to survive.

“It’s great to see our research being used to help people,” said Blewett, who has a personal interest in this subject, living with the disease herself and raising a child with Celiac. 

“I knew the price of gluten-free staple foods were higher than gluten-containing foods, but the exact difference hadn’t been documented in the Canadian prairies,” she said.  The results were surprising, showing that the difference in cost between gluten-free and gluten-containing foods in Winnipeg in 2020 was 1.6-1.7 times higher than what was reported in the Maritimes in 2017.  “Our results showed that despite a steady increase in the availability of gluten-free foods in Canada relative to foods containing gluten, the cost of gluten-free products has also increased, or there is a discrepancy between the provinces,” Blewett explained.

Blewett and her daughter have participated in the Canadian Celiac Association-Manitoba Chapter’s Walk-a-Thon for the past two years, an event to raise money to buy gluten-free foods for Harvest Manitoba to make sure that people who need gluten-free food have access to it. 

“It is so upsetting to think that people who have Celiac Disease and need to use a food bank might have to choose between going hungry or eating foods that will make them sick if gluten-free food is not available,” she added.

To help fund more research, and other ways to support the goals of Celiac Canada, please visit their website.